They got a confidence vote despite Toronto failing to advance to the Stanley Cup Playoffs for the sixth consecutive season. Shanahan also said he does not expect any significant changes to the roster during the off-season.
“I think it’s important to say that I see them both (Keefe and Dubas) as extremely important in taking us to the next level,” Shanahan said.
“We share in everyone’s frustration that the job isn’t done. Certainly as we look forward to next year, there will always be new faces. That said, we won’t be making changes just to say we’ve made changes. “
The Maple Leafs, who set their records this season with 54 wins and 115 points, lost a 3-2 series lead over the Tampa Bay Lightning in the best-of-7 Eastern Conference First Round, losing 4-3 in overtime in Game 6 on Thursday and 2-1 in Game 7 on Saturday.
“I think the regular season and the playoff series, the way the group played was different,” said Dubas. “I didn’t feel in the 5th, 6th or 7th Games that we were chasing or reacting to another team dictating how the game was going to go. I didn’t feel like we were passive in the previous years.”
Keefe, who is under contract through the 2023-24 season, stands at 116-50-19 in 185 regular-season games since he replaced Mike Babcock as coach during the 2019-20 season. He is 8-11 in the playoffs.
Dubas was named GM after the 2017-18 season.
In the past nine chances to take out an opponent, Toronto has been on a 0-9 date with Game 7 of the 2018 first round against the Boston Bruins. Still, Keefe expressed confidence in the core players, including attackers Austin Matthews† John Tavares† Mitchell Marner and William Nylanderand defenders Morgan Rielly and Jake Muzzin†
“I have tremendous faith in our group and continue to have tremendous faith in our group and the effort they have put into us,” Keefe said. “In particular, I felt we really came up and leaned forward in key moments and pushed and weren’t afraid to lose. We were aggressive in our approach and the mentality of our team that we built over the regular season, that came forward in the play-offs against a very tough opponent. We didn’t get the results we wanted and that stings, mainly because of the faith we have in the group and what we have achieved together. I believe progress has been made , even though it’s hard to feel that way because we’re talking here again at the end of the first round.”
Dubas said the failure is a test of the entire organization’s determination to continue on the set course.
“It’s easy to say at the beginning of the year you believe you believe when you’ve won,” Dubas said, “but I think in these moments when you haven’t reached the potential that everyone knows you have and that you mainly know internally that you have that, then real faith is measured. I do believe in the group.”
However, as with any low season, there will be changes. The challenge for Dubas will be to improve the team despite the limited space under the NHL salary cap.
“We have to repeat in most respects the way we worked last summer,” said Dubas, “and go out and find players who can come in and add to our group and do that at not a very high cost but by being able to take advantage of opportunity and to prosper.”
The most notable free agent for the Maple Leafs is goalkeeper Jack Campbell, who can become an unrestricted free player on July 13. He was 31-9-6 averaging 2.64 goals, a save rate of 0.914 and five shutouts in 49 regular season games (47 starts) this season, his first full season as the No. 1 goalkeeper, and was named to his first NHL All-Star Game. The 30-year-old was 3-4 with a 3.15 GAA and a serve percentage of 0.897, starting all seven playoff games.
“Winning here means everything to me,” said Campbell. “I love the city of Toronto, I love the fans, the support and my teammates are absolutely incredible, the coaching staff, everything.”
Dubas said he will begin talks with Campbell’s representatives soon. The goalkeeper said he will leave negotiations to his agents, but referred to his return.
“I can’t wait to see what we can do next season as a team and personally,” said Campbell.
defender Mark Giordano, which was acquired on March 20 in a transaction with the Seattle Kraken, may also become an unrestricted free agent. The 38-year-old had 12 points (two goals, 10 assists) in 20 regular season games and two assists in seven playoff games.
“Everyone knows I’m from Toronto, I love it here, I loved my time here,” said Giordano. “I’ll talk to my agent in the next week and go from there. I don’t think it’s a secret that I’ve had a good time here.”
“I feel pretty good at my game and feel like I’m a guy who can also help young guys get started. I felt good, keep training hard and hopefully continue for a few more years.”
forward Jason Spezza, who completed his third consecutive one-year contract with the Maple Leafs, is another pending unrestricted free agent. The 38-year-old had 25 points (12 goals, 13 assists) in 71 regular-season games, but was a healthy scratch at times late in the season and in the first two games of the playoffs. He had two assists in five playoff games.
Spezza said he has not thought about his future.
“I love the game, I’ve always said that if I can give meaning to the group, if I can contribute every night, I want to play,” Spezza said. “So there are conversations that need to be had with me and the management and the coaches, but this is the only place I would play.”
Although the Maple Leafs again failed to win a playoff series, Matthews, who set a Toronto record with 60 goals in the regular season, said the players feel they will eventually find a way to break through.
“Yes, we do,” Matthews said. “I believe it. Everyone in this room believes it. I don’t think we can really concern ourselves with the opinions of others, the media, fans and what other people think. I know deep in this room we all believe in each other other It’s a tough pill to swallow, but I don’t think that belief has ever wavered.”